If I weren’t afraid, what would I write about?
Creative people sacrifice a great deal of themselves for their craft. It takes a lot of energy and confidence to take an idea, put your force of will behind it, give it lift, give it traction, and make it a reality. And sometimes we don’t have the freedom to tell our stories as we see fit. After all, we aren’t the only characters in our tales — there were other people there, too. Perhaps the artist doesn’t feel the need for self-preservation, but their loved ones do. How will they feel about their story being told alongside yours? I’ve struggled with this often.
We want to fight against the institution of stigma, but have to confront that the wardens of that institution are often those people who profess to love us the most: mothers, fathers, siblings, or friends. Perhaps their unconditional love and support doesn’t cover our attempts to feed our souls through our creativity. To surrender ourselves to living in silence or conducting part of our journey in secret protects their feelings, but also relegates us to living a half-life, unactualized and bifurcated by fear: truth on one side, peace-keeping on the other.
It’s important to recognize just how much power you give to others and if they are using it responsibly. There are those emotional tyrants who would rather you continue to live on the fringes, just so they can save face. They have robbed you of the rights to your own story, merely because they played a part in it and are ashamed of their conduct. And because you are caring, self-sacrificing, and willing, you will allow them to dictate how you live your life and what stories you will tell.
I have been in some abusive relationships. The militant part of me has welled up with righteous anger and the need to strike back, but I have always held myself back. I don’t want to hurt or offend with my writing — I write to feed my soul, and no nourishment is found in words that harm. But it’s more than that — I hold back because my love for these tyrants, regardless of their warped thinking, asks me to be kind. Asks me to put their need for under-rug-swept before my need for transparency. I think that most victims of emotional abuse, even physical abuse, face a similar quandary: how to do free yourself from the stigma of illness and abuse when doing so would harm your abuser, whom you love?
If I were unafraid, what stories would I tell?
All of them.